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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Measuring Student Achievement: Ten questions

Governor Crist of Florida (where I live) last week vetoed a piece of nonsense that linked teacher's salaries to "student achievement." I imagine his veto of his own party's bill was about politics and not about education, but let me ask some education questions that are never asked:

1. Why do we need to measure student achievement?
2. What would happen if students were not measured or graded at all?
3. Can we imagine an educational system in which students were seen as consumers and they could consume what they wanted to consume -- letting them learn what they'd like to learn?
4. Why do legislatures think they understand what children need to learn?
5. How well would these legislators do on the very FCATs they mandate?
6. Do legislators regularly take multiple choice tests?
7. Why don't we measure legislators with multiple choice tests?
8. If adult achievement involves actual acts of labor (i.e. doing things) why not measure students in the same way?
9. Why is it so hard to re-think the idea of student achievement, and imagine it as having students actually achieve real things, real abilities, that can be seen and demonstrated and judged in the same way that the actions of adults are judged?
10. Can we imagine school as a place where students pursue their interests and demonstrate real achievements, and not have t o work at improving meaningless test scores masquerading as achievements?

I just thought I'd ask.


Free Radical said...

These are excellent questions. They should be sent to all educators and legislators in the US, prompting a national conversation about the purpose of education. It is so important to get folks to step outside what they have internalized as "natural" (measuring academic achievement, for instance), and force them to articulate their logic. Reminders that children are people, not objects to be made into spreadsheet data, are also vital in this discussion. Thanks for your post. It made my day.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in Florida in the early 90's, I had a seizure disorder and needed regular meds. I was in 3rd grade. Well one day, I had forgotten to take my meds and my mother showed up at school with them. The administration got so worked up about how the SAT test was timed and could not be interrupted, even for a medical emergency. I still remember it to this day. The educational system has made me nauseous ever since. My high school career ended with each senior getting a page in the yearbook to write about whatever they liked, mainly memories. Since I had studied at 4 different high schools in the area, I decided to write a page essay about the educational system and my observations of it.
Well that didn't go over too well when the yearbook teacher got wind of it, they pulled it and told me to think of something else. So my full page simply read Carpe Diem. (Preferrably not in an institution) (mental or otherwise)

I read an article about 5 years ago about a young woman who began protesting the cost of the college books she was buying and never using by leaving college and developing her own curriculum and studies. She studied what she wanted to concentrate on and developed her own "college" so to speak. She was going to use this as her "evidence" of knowledge when applying for the career she wanted. I never did hear how seriously employers took it, but it is a grand idea.